Prosecutors seek private care for 27 seized dogs

Prosecutors seek private care for 27 seized dogs

Credit: Charlotte Observer

Prosecutors seek private care for 27 seized dogs

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by GARY L. WRIGHT / Charlotte Observer

WCNC.com

Posted on April 10, 2013 at 9:20 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Mecklenburg prosecutors want to find better care for pit bulls seized two months ago in a dog-fighting investigation.

Prosecutors are seeking a judge’s order that would allow police to find private kennels to take care of the dogs.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police found 27 pit bulls, tethers and a fighting arena in east Mecklenburg County in February. Authorities said at the time that it might be one of the largest dog-fighting operations the department had ever investigated.

In motions seeking a hearing on the dogs, Assistant District Attorney Glenn Cole wrote that the pit bulls are taking up space at the animal shelter that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care and Control uses for the temporary placement of animals.

“The space being used is not meant for long-term placement of animals and seized canines may suffer behavioral and physical harm if maintained in this space,” Cole wrote.

Prosecutors want permission for animal control authorities to contract with private kennels “for the care and well-being of the canines” until the criminal cases against the defendants are resolved.

Lefonze Williams, 42, was indicted on 36 counts of dog fighting. Melvin Smith, 46, was indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit dog fighting. Both were identified in the court documents as the dogs’ owners.

The dog fighting charges each carry punishments ranging from four months to 39 months in prison. The conspiracy charge carries a punishment ranging from three months to 24 months in prison.

Police seized the dogs in a backyard near Harrisburg and Albemarle roads. Police said the evidence suggests the property was used for both training and fighting dogs.

The suspected dog fighting operation also raised concerns because of its proximity to J.H. Gunn Elementary School as well as its location in a neighborhood and not a rural area.

Capt. Chris Dozier of Animal Care and Control described it as “something that we never have come across before, especially with the number of animals that were found.” Dozier said police also found the building where the dogs fought.

A court hearing on what to do with the pit bulls is set for Friday.

Peter Nicholson, Smith’s attorney, declined comment on the prosecutors’ motion. But Nicholson said his client doesn’t own any of the seized dogs.

Williams’ attorney could not be reached for comment.

Prosecutors are also asking the judge to order Williams and Smith to pay for taking care of the dogs. That money would cover the cost of shelter, food and care, according to court documents.

If Williams and Smith decline to assume responsibility for the animals, prosecutors have asked that the dogs be forfeited.

If the dogs are forfeited, the animal shelter will determine if the animals are suitable for adoption. If no adoptions can be arranged, the shelter, by law, shall euthanize the dogs, the court documents say.

Cole, in his motion, wrote that the dogs’ examinations have been completed and that the animals are no longer needed for the investigation.

The prosecutor has asked if the defendants want to inspect the dogs or get access to the animals to gather information in preparation for their trial. If so, Cole wants the judge to set “a reasonable amount of time for the collection of evidence that is consistent with the well-being of the animals.”

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